Has Not Benefited From Peer Review
Has Not Benefited From Peer Review is a blog of random writing by William Grover.
On a recent trip to Vancouver B.C. we decided to take TransLink’s SkyTrain and buses from the airport to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. We bought our tickets at the YVR SkyTrain station:
For some reason, the story of the Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster has always fascinated me. If you don’t already know about it, Elixir Sulfanilamide was a drug developed in 1937 by the S. E. Massengill Company of Bristol, Tennessee. Only a month after Massengill began selling it, reports started coming in of patients who endured terribly painful deaths after taking the medicine. Thanks to a herculean effort by the US Food and Drug Administration to collect the remaining bottles of the medicine before anyone else took it, “only” about a hundred deaths were attributed to the drug.
In the time-honored tradition of folks pontificating about stuff they know absolutely nothing about, here is my humble proposal for the Riverside streetcar line in the neighborhood around UC Riverside (click for a bigger version):
I always thought I’d move back to Tennessee. I was born and raised there, and I’m proud of my chemistry degree from the University of Tennessee (class of ‘99). And even though I left Tennessee to get my PhD, I always assumed I’d return. To maybe be a professor at UT. To share my passion for science with the next generation of scientists. To collaborate with some of the world’s brightest minds at Oak Ridge. To start companies and create jobs for Tennesseans. To try to give something back to a state that’s done so much for me.
My friend and former labmate Marcio von Muhlen recently wrote a thought-provoking piece on why we need a Github of science. My take on his central argument: our centuries-old system of for-profit academic journals and peer review could be vastly improved if it included aspects of modern Open Source software publishing tools like Github. For example, instead of relying on the opinion of two or three anonymous (and possibly unqualified) referees to determine whether my research belongs in a high-impact journal, I could post my paper on the “Github of science” and the entire community of my peers could weigh in on its strengths and weaknesses. Like quality hits in a Google search, well-regarded research rises to the top and is rewarded by additional visibility, and weaker research sinks to the bottom. Marcio’s piece was the subject of an enthusiastic discussion on Hacker News.
I’ve been thinking about a backwards approach to Marcio’s argument: instead of adding aspects of Github to science publishing, what would happen if we added aspects of the current science publishing system to Github? How horribly broken would Github become if we recast it in the image of Reed-Elsevier, Springer, John Wiley and Sons, and the rest of the for-profit scientific publishing companies?
Originally published in the Berkeley Science Review
Sixty years ago Berkeley was a campus at war. Plutonium, which had been discovered by Cal chemist Glenn Seaborg and his colleagues in 1940, had been identified by Manhattan Project scientists as a potential bomb-making material; by 1945 it was the subject of intense research at Berkeley, Los Alamos, and the University of Chicago. The frantic pace of wartime research led to numerous accidents: Los Alamos chemist Don Mastick swallowed much of the world’s plutonium when a test tube he was holding exploded in his face. Mishaps like this made Manhattan Project leaders anxious to better understand the health effects of plutonium. For answers, they turned to Joseph Hamilton, a young Berkeley professor who was already an expert on the toxicology of radioactive materials…
subscribe via RSS